Talk with a difficult manager

I once had a talk with a manager that was very difficult. The talk, and the manager, I mean. Both were difficult. She’d been psychologically abusive the entire time I was there. It wasn’t just me that she was abusive to – she was abusive to everybody. I like to joke that she alternated between being a bully and a tyrant. Upper administration knew about her, or suspected quite a bit, but felt powerless to do anything because of her race. She would have threatened to sue if she had been disciplined or fired. It wasn’t her race that was the issue, but she would have made it one.

I didn’t say anything to her for years. I didn’t say anything in part because I didn’t often have to deal with her directly. There was a manager between her and me, and that manager caught most of it. I also didn’t say much because I grew up in an abusive home, with a pushy and manipulative brother and compliant parents. Being pushed around and not treated well was my normal. It was only in my 40s that I started doing my boundary work.

When the bad manager finally decided to retire, I knew I had to say something. I steeled myself up and prayed quite a bit. I sat, in her cramped office, lights and furniture angled to make everyone visiting in it feel like they were being interrogated (this was intentional on her part). I reminded her of the sentence she’d said at the announcement of her retirement. She’d said that she’d “been hard on us all this time because it was for our own good”. She meant that she was abusive because it would help us, she thought – spur us on to be better employees. She nodded, she remembered saying that. I asked her “Would it have hurt you to say ‘thanks for the good work’ every now and then?”

She didn’t reply. She was stunned. In 12 years she’d never said that, and she knew it. She recovered, and turned it around so that it was all my fault. This is her way. Leopards don’t change their spots, you know.

I didn’t do it for her. I didn’t expect her to change. I did it for me, because I’d changed. I wasn’t seeking revenge, just reconciliation. I had to speak up, even if it was just a little, even if it was at the end of our relationship. Late is better than never. I didn’t want to push her or abuse her – then I would have been the same as her. I just wanted to speak up, to let her know that things weren’t what she thought they were.

I left her office, holding myself together. I went into the bathroom and cried. I cried hard, not caring if anybody heard me, not really. I knew she wouldn’t. She rarely ventured out of her office. I didn’t want to cry in front of her – I didn’t want her to get the satisfaction of pushing another person around.

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Hidden in plain sight

I think it is interesting how there are some posts that I won’t share on my Facebook feed, but I’ll still write them and post them. There are some people and situations that I want to write about that I feel won’t be received well by my friends or my family, so I don’t share them there. But I do share them with total strangers all over the world.

Perhaps it is a sign to me that I should talk to those people privately about what I see. Sometimes family or friends are doing something that I think is dangerous or stupid or counterproductive. Sometimes I can see that the direction they are going will result in making their lives even more difficult. But instead of telling them, I vent about it here.

But then again, I’ve noticed that people are unwilling or unable to heed advice when they didn’t seek it.

For a while I had a filter, where I would share posts with certain people but not others. I could block out a group. It turned out that group was either family or friends of family. Family tends to get upset when I talk about family. My brother had a real issue with it – something about family honor and pride and name. But if he was so darned interested in family honor and pride and name, he should have acted better.

I was just reporting the facts. Is it embarrassing to be called out for your repeated violations of your own honor code? His lies and machinations finally got to me. It was either my sanity and health or his “honor”.

Then there is my married family. There is quite a bit of unsettled business there, and it is ugly to watch people act like teenagers when they are in their 70s. If lessons aren’t learned when you are young, you will continue to stay at that emotional age.

I got called out for pointing out hypocrisy and lies and maladaptive behavior in my family – birth and married. I got challenged by members, saying that I should just put up and shut up and make peace. It isn’t my place to make peace with someone who has abused me. I am not in the wrong for standing up for myself.

If someone breaks into my house and robs me, I am not the person who should apologize and make things right.

Being mentally harmed by a family member, even after I have pointed out the harm and asked him to stop, is the same as being robbed. My mental peace had been stolen. But for another family member to write me and say I should make peace for the sake of the family is even more insulting, and further harms me. It says that I am the antagonist.

I was attacked for what I wrote about the church too – by members of the parish I went to, and by strangers here who thought I was being divisive and harming the Church. I’m not. I’m showing how we are damaging it. I want it to be stronger, but it can’t be until we remove the weak parts. Like all the parts that Jesus not only didn’t tell us to do, but also all the parts that Jesus told us especially not to do.

I will not be silent anymore. I was silent for many years. But now I’ve found my voice, and I will speak. The more people who try to silence me actually strengthens me, because I see it as a sign I’m on the right path. Just like in aikido, I use my opponents’ energy in my favor.

Counting doesn’t count

I saw a lady whose son was hanging onto the gates near the door at the library. It wasn’t time for the family to leave yet, and she was trying to get him to come back to the children’s section. He was having none of it. He was about 6.

She looked at him and said “1.” Pause. She gave him a stern look. “2”. Pause. Another stern look. “2” she said again, looking at him like he better get the clue. And yet again, she said “2”.

I said “No, you have to say 3, otherwise 2 has no meaning.” She said three, he didn’t come, and she went to him, took him by the arm and marched him back to where he was supposed to be.

He cried, of course, and that is what she was trying to avoid. But if she isn’t firm and consistent with expectations and consequences, then she might as well not say anything at all.

Rules have to have consequences if they are broken. Otherwise they have no meaning.

Sayings “shhh” doesn’t mean anything either. The child learns that they yell, and Mom says “shhh”. It is just an exchange of sounds. The parent has to say “Please be quiet” or explain that “shhh” means that. Otherwise “shhh” is just a sound.

Then there was the mom whose child would not stay with her. He kept running to the door, or just away from her. She told him what to do and he kept not doing it.

There were no consequences. He had no reason to obey her.

It was yet another example of “Stop doing that or I’ll say stop doing that again.”

However you want your child to act as an adult, you need to mold them as a child. You are supposed to be a parent, not a friend.

Sure, they won’t like it. That isn’t the point. It isn’t child abuse to set rules and enforce consequences. It is child abuse to not do this. Otherwise they grow up wild.

Stop – on being still.

I’m trying to reassess stopping. Taking time out is hard for me. I think some of it has to do with my upbringing. The more I read of the affirmations for my inner child, the more I think it was programmed into me. It isn’t part of who I am. It is part of what my parents taught me to be. Thus, it can be unlearned.

Stopping is good if you are in a car. If you don’t stop at a red light, you’ll get run over. If you don’t stop to get gas you’ll be stranded.

We stop when we leave jobs or boyfriends. We stop when we drop out of college. We admit that we just can’t take it anymore, so we walk away.

But I want to stop before I get to that point. I want to stop as a sign of strength, not of weakness. I want to stop so I can go.

I stop every day. I stop and make time to sleep. I have an uneasy relationship with sleep. That is a third of my day, thus a third of my life just gone. But I know from hard experience that if I don’t make time for sleep then nothing ever works right. Not getting enough sleep put me in the hospital. Sadly the medical answer was to give me sleeping pills and not to teach me good habits that will promote sleep, so I had to figure that trick out for myself.

So now I’m learning how to stop. I’ve signed up for silent retreats. I’m taking time off from work. I’m turning off the TV. I’m trying to get into the habit of sitting still. I’m trying to not cram “stuff” into my day the same way a hoarder crams “stuff” into her house. Sometimes I feel that every moment has to be filled with something to do. I’m starting to see that as a result of my childhood.

It isn’t healthy. Sure, there has to be a balance. I don’t want to lapse into not doing anything. I did that for years. But I don’t want to do so much that I stop being able to enjoy life.

I think the more I learn how to stop, the more clearly I’ll be able to think.

I miss my Dad.

I miss my Dad.

He’s been dead since 1994. He died of a heart attack while living in his old room at his Mom’s house. He and my Mom were separated. They couldn’t see eye to eye.

There hadn’t been a lot of real communication all along anyway.

In a way I could say he was never really alive.

He was abused by his parents. He was never good enough for them. They treated him like a stupid child. He was sullen as a father, and greedy as a person. I was embarrassed to bring boyfriends home.

But I miss him.

Do I miss what could have been? Do I miss the Dad of my imagination? Would I feel an opposite amount of joy for my sadness if he were still alive today?

I can’t know.

I know that when I saw a picture of him today, laughing, joyful, I was struck with sadness. I am sad for what never was. I am sad for a life not lived fully. I am sad that I never saw him live up to his potential. I am sad that he was crushed by life, by other’s demands on him. I’m sad that he didn’t live at a time where mental health professionals had better tools in their kits.

He taught college English anywhere and any place he could. He did distance learning before anybody had a word for it. He would teach people the joys of writing and reading fine authors in the evening in high schools, in the afternoon in prisons, wherever a class could be formed. Teaching was his life.

It has been nearly twenty years since he has died. I think he would be very proud of the person I’ve become.

I know that he loved me more than he had words to tell me.

I know that he tried his best.

I don’t know if I’m crying more for me, or for him.